David Fincher’s latest film is more than a little overblown, but still has its strong points.
As most will know, the premise is that the titular character, played by Brad Pitt, is born an old man and continues to grow ‘younger’ as time goes on. As a sci-fi conceit it’s quite nice, and you would think it would raise all sorts of questions. That young Benjamin was brought up in a retirement home should also provoke interesting observations about mortality. Unfortunately, we never get much further than the Inevitability of Death, or Craving Our Lost Youth, all things which would have come up had he aged normally, anyway. From the starting point in 1918 we follow Benjamin’s life, narrated by himself (for the most part) and get a nifty tour through the decades which, at its worst, edges into Forrest Gump territory. To a certain extent, the film is a love letter to New Orleans, though the references to Hurricane Katrina seem a little gauche.
Pitt’s performance is solid, not drawing too much attention to himself for a change, and it’s an exciting moment when – after many scenes with him covered in prosthetics – we finally see the actual Brad Pitt. Cate Blanchett is great as per usual as Benjamin’s one true love, Daisy, who is at her most interesting when her ego’s out of control.
The decades are lovingly recreated, much the same way as they were in Zodiac, and even in a film such as this Fincher can’t resist using a lot of digital effects. As usual, the CGI baby looks pretty silly, and it’s the less obvious, matte painting-type effects that work the best. The film is long, though I was never bored. All the same, I can’t imagine watching it again.
For a lifelong love epic, Benjamin Button works very well, though is at times a little inconsistent. The aforementioned similarities to Forrest Gump are annoying, and one scene veers strangely into Amelie (Le Fabulex destin d’Amélie Poulain) territory. As Benjamin nears the end of his life the conceit seems to cheat a little, too.
Overall it’s a worthwhile picture, but nothing groundbreaking.Rating: